A triumph of scholarship, Alex Ross’s Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music sets a new standard for cultural history. Ross, the New Yorker’s longtime classical music critic, follows his acclaimed history of modern music The Rest is Noise with nothing less than a panoptic view of the outsized cultural influence of Richard Wagner-the 19th century’s grandest artistic titan-on everything that followed. From Wagner’s earliest disciples, admirers, and sycophants (like prodigal son Nietzsche and early French champion Baudelaire) to the far reaches of his influence in Tolkien, Marvel movies, and vegetarianism, Ross crafts his own leitmotifs of themes, characters, and perspectives including Wagner’s role in gay culture, his notorious descendants, and his influence on all the major figures of modernist culture writ large. Centrally, Ross reckons with Wagner’s antisemitism, the long-reaching effects of his racist prose, and how, so entwined with Nazism, he became regarded as a kind of prophet for the coming of Hitler (a most devoted disciple to be sure). With propulsive prose, deft history-telling, and a crafty structure (starting at Wagner’s death and filling in with operatic summaries or background at always the right moment), Wagnerism becomes finally a brilliant examination of the tangled knot that is the interrelationship of art, politics, and history. ~ Reviewed by Dafydd Wood
Thanks to everyone that joined last night's special edition of Northshire Live which we dubbed Bookseller Happy Hour at Home. Mike Hare and Kirstin Swartz of the Saratoga Springs store shared some of their recent favorites, and Dafydd Wood of the Manchester store shared a few of his.
I was blown away by this gorgeous gripping graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Newbery and Carnegie-winning The Graveyard Book, which I’d somehow never read. With each chapter drawn by a different artist, this single volume edition adapted by Harvey and Eisner winning P. Craig Russell works as a unified whole with an aesthetic reminiscent of vintage Sandman. ~ Reviewed by Dafydd Wood
A challenge to put down, French Exit is a comic novel the finds the tragic in its dreadful, irresistible protagonists. Frances Price an odd, unpleasant, yet charming widow is still surrounded by the social stigma of finding her husband dead and leaving his body to go for a ski weekend. Her adult son is a passive wreck with next to no agency, and their cat Small Frank just might contain the spirit of his dead father. The money has run out, and Frances, Malcolm, and Small Frank decide to make an exit for Paris where more trouble awaits. ~ Reviewed by Dafydd Wood
Carried along by a delicious voice and an eye for quotidian moments at their most awkwardly comic, The Ballad of Big Feeling is a remarkable debut novel. Our protagonist, known only as the woman, somewhat aimlessly ambles through life enduring it, remembering her childhood, dealing with her aging parents, her friends, tiresome coworkers, her lover and his inadequacies, all while Braverman finds the perfect telling details for an original comic but touching register. Please, just read its first short chapter to get a taste of the book’s delicious tone. ~ Reviewed by Dafydd Wood